Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breaking: Massive Explosion Rocks Louisiana while 600 Working at Chemical Plant, at least 33 Injured

6/13/13 - GEISMAR, LA (WAFB) - Officials with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reports that 33 people were injured in a Thursday morning plant explosion in Geismar, La. There are no confirmed fatalities. Residents in St. Gabriel from Highway 3115 to Highway 74 should shelter in place as a precaution. Close doors and windows and stay inside.

Officials at the plant say the explosion happened at 8:37 a.m. As of 10:50 a.m., officials believe the fire is contained and the situation is stable. There were as many as 600 workers in the plant at the time of the explosion.

Geismar is about 20 miles south of Baton Rouge, LA.

DEQ has completed the first round of monitoring around Highways LA 3115 and LA 73 and there was nothing alarming detected initially. The air monitoring area is being expanded now.

The Environmental Protection Agency has mobilized a START Team to help monitor the air quality around the plant.

According to DEQ, the release from the stack is reported to be residual propelyne -- this is what's generating the smoke

According to Louisiana State Police, the evacuation of the plant and road closures will be in place until further notice.

"We are in the process of accounting for all personnel. Injuries have been reported, the number and extent of those injuries is not known at this point," said Tom Droege with Williams Geismar Olefins plant in a news release.

For those seeking family members, the Ascension Parish Emergency Operations Center has a set up a phone number: 866-380-2303. The EOC will not be able to patch callers through to their family members, but will be able to give callers the status of their loved ones.

Baton Rouge General Hospital also released a phone number for family members or employer personnel seeking information about potential victims. That number is 225-387-7767.

The St. George Fire Department dispatched an engine company and a chief officer to East Iberville High School to assist with triage and treatment of patients as requested.

Plant workers were taken by bus to various staging areas.

Homeland Security is also on scene assisting investigators, according to Lester Kenyon, the Public Information Officer for Ascension Parish.

"We train for these types of events because this is a heavy corridor for these types of plants along the Mississippi River," Kenyon told CNN.

Local routes to the plant have been closed by the local authorities. Here is a list of the road closures:

LA 74 and LA 30 at LA 3115
LA 30 at LA 74 is closed
LA 30 at LA 73
LA 75 at LA 3115
According to the company's website, it provides products to customers in the petrochemical industry. The Geismar plant produces 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene, both flammable gases used in industrial chemicals and plastic products.

The Olefin team is responsible for the ethane transportation business consisting of approximately 200 miles of pipelines, as well as a refinery-grade propylene splitter.

A neighboring plant says the major exposure is Butadiene spheres. They say that Williams Olefin has a hydrocarbon fire and the concern is that another explosion could occur and the fire is not under control.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

A fertilizer plant exploded in West, TX on April 17, killing 15 people -- 12 of which were first responders - and injured hundreds. The explosion heavily damaged homes, businesses and schools in the town of 2,800. On Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied additional aid to West.